Spikes' expanded work at practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Linebacker Brandon Spikes’ expanded participation in drills and team work was one of the notable aspects of the Patriots’ fifth practice of training camp, which took place Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Spikes was limited over the Patriots’ first four practices, and just as his return late in the 2011 season brought a new energy to the defense, the same was true on the practice field Tuesday. The defense seems to have more of an edge when he’s in the middle.

The session was the Patriots’ third in a row in full pads, as players continue to become acclimated to full-contact work.

Fullback Tony Fiammetta, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and center/guard Jamey Richard were not spotted at the session. Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) and linebacker Tracy White remain out. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich was limited in drills for the second straight practice.

One of the growing individual competitions that is catching the eye has rookie defensive end Chandler Jones against second-year left tackle Nate Solder. The two squared off twice in 1 on 1s, with Jones getting the better of Solder on one snap, getting his hands into him and then somewhat throwing him to the side in a push-and-pull move. The two had a stalemate on the next snap.

One additional personnel note: Guard Donald Thomas’ strong start to camp seemed to be rewarded by the coaching staff. He saw extended opportunity in this practice.

Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, who played under Bill Belichick, was a guest at practice.

More observations to come.